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Remote Communities in Azerbaijan

Community Approaches to a Better Environment for All and Poverty Reduction in Out of Reach Communities


Countries: Azerbaijan
Donors: European Commission
Partners: WECF The Netherlands, EKOT (Ekoloji Taraziig NGO), Azerbaijan and Sustainable Future NGO from Finland
Issues: Water & Sanitation, Energy & Climate
Duration: 11/2009 - 11/2011

The action takes place in 6 rural communities in Sabirabad, Saatli, Ismayilli and Shemakha regions of Azerbaijan. The communities suffer from water and energy shortage, and they will be engaged in finding solutions in the area of improved water and sanitation management as well as energy provision and based on locally identified needs. The project target group are the inhabitants, by different stakeholder groups (farmers, poor families, teachers, medical staff, NSAs, CBOs, local authorities, utilities, SMEs, refugee community).

A total of 120 people will be trained as trainers in sustainable energy and sanitation solutions. 24-30 people will become “core trainers and sustainability planners“. 10.000 people in 6 rural communities and local/regional authorities will be informed about sustainable energy and water/sanitation solutions and will be given tools to improve health, gender and economic status in particular in the vulnerable groups.

Water and Sanitation

The rural areas targeted by this action are semi-arid, with scarce groundwater resources, contributing to poverty and poor health. Only 58% of people have access to safe drinking water (UNICEF), which is seen as one reason for the high infant mortality rate. The Kura river basin provides 70% of Azerbaijan’s drinking water and has poor water quality due to serious industrial pollution by heavy metals, ammonia and nitrates. People rely on small-scale water supply systems or on shallow wells, which are often contaminated with micro-organism and nitrates.

These pit-latrines are the primary form if sanitation used and often a source of groundwater pollution (drinking water and wells). Little attention is given and low awareness exists on hygiene, water and sanitation related diseases, and about safe and affordable solutions for improved water and sanitation solutions.


Azerbaijan is rich in oil and gas, yet much of the rural population suffers from energy poverty and supply problems. In rural areas, people often have only 5-6 hours electricity per day. Buildings are poorly insulated, and there is high potential for energy saving. Cow manure is used as fuel for cooking and hence contributing to a decreased crop production and increased poverty. Although Azerbaijan is a sun-rich country, possibilities on using solar energy in a sustainable and low cost manner are little known and not promoted in the rural areas. Access to reliable and clean energy, as well as insulation of houses and other efficiency measures are a priority for many people in the targeted regions.


Environmental factors are important health risks. About 25% of the population does not have access to safe water and waste-water disposal, with rural areas most disadvantaged. Surface waters are regularly polluted by heavy metals and pesticide residues.

Overall objectives of the project:

  • Contribute to poverty reduction by improving economic status and health of the rural population with innovative approaches in the sectors of energy and sanitation in disadvantaged rural communities of Azerbaijan.
  • Improve rural livelihoods by supporting women and the wider community to develop small-scale, affordable, replicable and environmentally friendly approaches through development of renewable energy activities and through water management practices.
  • Capacity building of civil society organisations and local authorities, and organising stakeholders to disseminate energy efficiency and water and sanitation initiatives.
  • Improve rural development policies through increased public participation, in particular women, through community outreach programmes and increased co-operation with local authorities and water and energy supply utilities.
  • Contribute to achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in Azerbaijan, in particular MDG 1, 3 and 7.
  • Increase co-operation, synergies and structured dialogue on sustainable rural development and poverty reduction, between Azeri civil society organisations and local authorities and civil society organisations from the WECF network and authorities from 30 EU and EECCA countries as well as with Community institutions.

Main activities:

  • 6 needs assessment for rural communities are carried out, including gender and environmental needs;
  • 500 training manuals are developed and disseminated;
  • Trainings on selected sustainable energy and sanitations solutions are carried out for the community members, based on their needs.
  • 6 village demonstration projects on sustainable water and sanitation and energy solutions are chosen and implemented by community members based on their identified needs.
  • Guidelines/factsheets on reduced water pollution and use and reduced forest depletion are disseminated to the general public and policy-makers in the 6 rural communities;
  • Improved health, gender and economic status of 6 communities are measured in the demonstration projects' survey;
  • Policy recommendations and the project report are disseminated to 50 decision-makers to promote alternative solutions at the national stake-holders' conference in Baku (year 2);
  • The project results are presented to policy makers, civil society and the press in the EU and other accession countries by the project partners

Expected results:

  • Local stakeholders, including refugee community, have been involved in needs assessment;
  • Capacity of NSAs and local communities has been built on renewable energy and improved sanitation and water practices;
  • Demonstration of sustainable energy and water solutions in 6 communities, based on guidelines developed, and followed by a monitoring survey;
  • Awareness of public and policy makers has been raised on a strategy for sustainable rural development based on lessons learned of the project;
  • Co-operation and dialogue among Azeri stakeholders, and with EU and accession partners has increased

This project will build the capacity of local non-state actors and local people in 6 rural communities to tackle their energy, water, sanitation and related health problems, and thus reduce poverty. The implementation of the demonstration projects will serve as an innovative ‘best practice’ example on sustainable development. Problems cannot be solved overnight, but the aim is to take a first step towards community mobilisation on the one hand, and awareness raising about de-central, effective and low cost solutions to problems faced by similar rural communities on the other. Small-scale solutions will be introduced at local and household level, and then the know-how and information will be disseminated at a broader level, with involvement of decision-makers and introducing the culture of WSPs, ecological and safe sanitation, and small-scale renewable energy at regional level with the possibility to collaborate with neighbouring communities in Georgia for experience exchange and strengthening of Ecosan approaches in the South Caucasus. Furthermore, results will be spread at EU level and experiences as well as lessons learned will be shared amongst the WECF network (100 NGOs) in 40 countries.

The rural communities will participate in trainings organized by the project partners. They also will be informed about the issues of water and sanitation and of energy by publications and press coverage of the project. Furthermore, guidelines on safe sanitation and reducing water pollution as well as alternative sources of energy will be disseminated to the general public and policy-makers in the 6 rural communities.

Ongoing activities:

Community needs assessments were done in all 6 regions to identify community priorities and necessary solutions in terms of water, sanitation and energy problems.

Training flyers were prepared by the project group to educate people in ecological sanitation, possible small scale technical solutions to use alternative source of energy at the household level (wind, solar, biogas) - cooking, heating water, drying fruits for sale, etc.

Rural women in the targeted areas are key factor, because they have responsibility for collecting or buying fuel (wood or cow dung), household budget, housework and hygiene, in addition to their second burden of agricultural work. There are many female-headed households due to labour migration, (IFAD estimates that 40% of rural households in Azerbaijan are headed by women).

2 Finnish Students from Tampere Environmental University (Finland) are involved in doing internship among this project with WECF/EKOT Team and actively participate in the activities related to water, energy, health problems in project regions and will start development of Water Safety Plans together with beneficiary communities in June 2010.

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